In many areas of the world, things are warming up right now. Springtime is here, for example, in North America, and with it, liquidation winter season goods are increasingly on offer everywhere. If you're a seller, these kinds of goods can be tempting buys for next season, when you can acquire them in useful quantities and at good prices.
But how long should you wait for prices to come down? And when is the best time to start listing again?
With winter just about in the rear view mirror for many of us, we thought it would be a good time to take stock of the winter selling cycle, to help sellers to plan for the year ahead.
Categories of Interest
To get a good picture for what the winter goods seasonal cycle looks like, we decided to sample an assortment of related categories, to be sure that we didn't mistake the cycle for one particular kind of product for the winter cycle in general. In our sample, we included the following categories:
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Women's Clothing > Coats & Jackets
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Men's Clothing > Coats & Jackets
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Women's Shoes > Boots
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Men's Shoes > Boots
Sporting Goods > Winter Sports > Downhill Skiing
Home & Garden > Yard, Garden & Outdoor Living > Outdoor Power Equipment > Snow Blowers
For each of these categories, we pulled a two-year chart both for dollar volume and for sell-through rates.
We chose to add the sell-through rate charts to avoid conflating different kinds of products by accident. In coats, for example, we wanted to be sure that the data told us when coats in general sell well—not just that coat sales do more dollar volume during the winter months, a fact that could result from the different values of coats appropriate to different seasons.
As we expected, the two-year charts for each of these categories show a large number of similarities. Here they are, one at a time.
The Winter Cycle, Buying and Selling
From looking at these charts, all of them broadly similar, we can get a sense for how the selling cycle for winter goods behaves.
Sales decline after the holidays but remain above the yearly slump until mid-April
Following a flat late spring and summer period, sales begin to pick up once again in mid-August
Annual peaks are seen during the holiday shopping season, which is the culmination of steady increases over the fall
The sell-through percentage charts are far less dramatic than the dollar volume charts, but they confirm the story as a rough indicator of shopper interest relative to available supply. For each category of goods charted, sell through rates see an increase throughout the fall, then a decline to yearly lows by May.
For sellers, this means that we're currently in last-minute territory to pick up many kinds of winter liquidation goods; retailers are now in full-on discount-until-it's-outta-here mode for 2013-2014 stock, realizing that by the time May begins, they're at minimum price and minimum volume levels for the year.
Once you've acquired inventory, the time to begin thinking about selling is at the end of summer or early fall, roughly coinciding with the back-to-school shopping season. After that, it's steady growth in winter goods all the way until the holiday shopping season peak.
As a final note, the chart for snow blowers ought to catch the eye of anyone looking for opportunities. Though more research will paint a more complete picture, the data seem here indicates stronger year-over-year growth rate for goods of this kind than was seen in the other charts—and perhaps an opportunity for the next winter season to come.